Welcome to the last of “7 Hidden Truths of Testing.”
Today, I’d like to take a look at the consequences of trusting too much in the power of standardized testing.
Hidden Truth #7: The worship of testing undermines real solutions
Testing doesn’t actually fix anything.
Assessment is useful information. It’s valuable for us educators to be able to check on achievement progress so adjustments can be made. And I haven’t heard any classroom teachers argue that standardized testing should go out the window completely. But too many “reformers” promote standardized testing as a way to fix education. They see it less as a progress report and more as a “carrot-and-stick” motivational solution.
Problem is, there is no research to support the notion that standardized testing will fix Mississippi education. If there is, I certainly can’t find it. In fact, in the nearly two decades our state has tested kids this way, Mississippi’s testing culture has grown more and more monstrous and overbearing, but after all that, our education system is sitting firmly at 51st in the nation. Testing our kids more is simply not the solution.
Faith in testing makes us forget about legitimate factors, like poverty.
In addition to making no significant positive impact on student achievement, testing distracts from better explanations for our educational woes. For instance, study after study show poverty and inadequate funding to be some of the strongest factors impacting student achievement. They’re the real numbers our Legislature should be passing bills to address.
But our testing culture tends to hide those needs. When people compare schools, they want an accurate sense of quality. Standardized testing produces alternative numbers for these comparisons that mask each school’s resources and challenges. If one school makes lower numbers than another, the assumption goes, it must not be as good a school. In some cases, that’s simply not true.
Testing is used to undermine the education profession.
You’ve got to admit: there’s something remarkable about forcing public school educators to participate in the mechanism of their own demise. It’s ironic. It’s masterfully calculated. Oh, it’s horrible, yes- It’s a system that’s rigged against our students. The legislature underfunds their education, then shifts the blame to public school teachers and administrators. Ya know, for not “doing their job,” which is defined as achieving enough points on the whatever blah blah blah. They make up laws demanding this and that, and the standardized test is Johnny-on-the-spot with fresh numbers they can use against us.
Schools from Ruleville to Macon crumble, roaches and rats infest them, and we tell our own native children to get over it, more or less. But test score numbers are always there to throw at teachers, to inject them with fresh guilt for not yet purging our state from its original sins and mathematical limitations.
It’s a shell game.
It’s political sleight of hand.
It’s our standardized testing culture. And until we try something different, it looks like we’re stuck with it.
James Comans is an 8th grade science teacher in Southaven and contributor to MSEdBlog. His views are his own and do not represent the views of any other entity.